20 minute trip on the bus for less than £3 to the suburb of Perth where the warm-up two-day game was being held. One of our key batters got a hundred and retired to let the others have a go, many of the rest got good starts and good practise in, whilst I was melting under the trees, retiring at lunch to a nearby shopping centre for more water and just to sit in the cool! Day two was much cooler, good thing too as I helped field balls from the team warm up, and come late afternoon I had to venture into the sunshine to warm up! Bowlers all got a go, letting the young aussies get closer to our total than would normally have been the case perhaps, but under the definition of warm-up, I think the objective was achieved.
The first battle of the Womens Ashes tour was won at 10am, when Charlotte Edwards won the toss and batted, seeing as according to Michael Vaughn only one Ashes test in the last year has not gone with the toss – the toss winner has not lost and the loser has not won an Ashes test match.
Arran Brindle showed all of the experience of someone who has 448 test runs to her name, coming to the middle with the wicket of the skipper Charlotte Edwards, at the end a spell when three English wickets fell for four runs leaving the visitors reeling at 32 for three. Passing 50 with a boundary also brought Arran her 500th test run and with support from first Lydia Greenway 22, and then Natalie Sciver – scoring 49 on debut, the three left the score with more respectability at 189 for 7. Natalie Sciver batted with great composure and maturity, seemingly unaffected by the pressure of the situation, which may have had some in the crowd disbelieving that this was her test debut. The tail tried to wag, but failed at a game that they rarely see, as many normally only get to bat when they are following instructions to set or chase a score. Dani Hazell did best, reaching 15 from 69 balls and England to a total of 201, before it seemed the skipper sent out a message to play their more normal game, and the next ball brought the flashing blade and a catch to bring the innings to a close and returning test player Rene Farrell her fourth wicket, an unexpected haul given that she had failed to break through in the opening session, wickets falling to all the other quicks.
Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole bowled with aggression brought by the situation, in the 6 overs left in the day, especially Anya in only her second test, bringing a few wild deliveries but also two wickets, including that of the dangerous opener Meg Lanning, leaving the home side 9 for 2 wickets after 5.5 overs.
Some in the crowd of probably less that 500 might say the second wicket tips the scales Englands way, but the match is evenly poised, apart from the weather that is causing horse racing meetings to be cancelled with 44c forecast over the weekend, meaning an exceedingly hot hard day in the field for the tourists tomorrow. England may regret going in to this match with 3 front line seamers, plus 3 second line seamers and only one spinner, unless the skipper bowls herself, with her opposing number able to call on 25 overs of spin out of the total of 91.1.
The end of the second day of the sole Women’s Ashes test left those watching with a feeling of deja-vu, only in reverse; a message went out, the tempo was upped followed by a little session for the bowlers to get a couple of bonus wickets, only this time England were on the receiving end, finishing on 18 for 3, only 12 runs ahead, having lost the wickets of Knight, Greenway and Taylor, leaving the Brindle/Sciver partnership to drop anchor yet again.
England toiled well in 40+ heat, with the stands mostly empty and the few spectators huddled in the air conditioned bars. Brunt suffered in an unusual way, one assumes from the heat, removed from the attack at the start of her tenth over, immediately after lunch, after a second ball slipped out of her hand, resulting in her second beamer no-ball. This left Shrubsole and Cross to pick up more than their expected share of the afternoons work, Cross in particular seizing the mettle and bowling four overs from the other end for zero runs whilst also including the vital and her third wicket of Fields, Australia’s captain.
Fields had rescued the aussies, along with Perry their top-scorer, from an ashes familiar top order batting collapse, in the face of some fierce quick bowling from Shrubsole, Cross and Brunt, climbing back from 37-5 to 92-6 when Fields fell, and 177-7 when Perry became Gunns only victim of the day, bowled, in the last but one over of her days work that had included 18 overs, umpteen maidens and only 14 runs, a spell of 6 in a row and captaining for much of the last part of the day, plus a fantastic catch.
Shrubsole ended with four wickets and the chance of a five-for from what was her last ball of the day, the final wicket falling into her hands at fine leg, off a top edge from Farrells bat, ending the Australian innings with a lead of just six runs and giving Sciver a wicket on debut, having bowled 10 overs.
Lottie left the field after skidding on the ground, inspected by the pyhsio at one of the longer and more frequent drinks breaks due to the weather, and therefore could not bat in the start of the second innings. The only communication was that it was knee related, but how serious will be seen with time. Tomorrow promises more heat, maybe a couple of degrees down, but still substantially hotter than many of the England players will have seen.
The third day brought deja vu for the third day in a row, hot with wickets at the end!
The day started with Brindle and Sciver surviving the first hour without loss, Sciver falling to Perry just before the second drinks break for 23, cementing a good debut game, aiding Brindle in moving the score from 10/3 to 64. Brindle also fell to Perry, lbw for 35 on 73 leaving Jenny Gunn to accompany a rampant Charlotte Edwards, showing little ill sign of the knee problems that had forced her from the field the evening before, but for a few extra stretches. They made it to lunch, with 75 runs scored, just maybe just, England’s session.
After more stretches, Edwards was pretty quickly to her 8th test 50, helped somewhat by the decision to bowl the part-time spinner Elliott, but fell to a frantic and multiple appeal by Perry for leg before, the score taken to 158 and the lead past 150. Gunn was joined by Hazell, but this time it was Gunn who marshalled the tail, passing her previous test best of 41, becoming spinner Osbournes only wicket of the innings for 44. The final two wickets managed to get the total to 190, Cross becoming Perry’s fifth victim for 5-58, leaving the Aussie requiring 185 to gain the six points available for the test match in this multi-format ashes series.
Vilani has fallen twice in the last week to Shrubsole, but the Aussie openers swapped with Lanning taking the non-strikers end, leaving Vilani to benefit from some wayward bowling from Brunt, nine including two boundaries from the first over, giving her the confidence to reach the boundary three more times, giving a hard chance to Taylor behind the stumps, before skying the ball behind the slips where Sciver showed another of her all round talents in taking the catch – 28/0 became 28/1, Vilani 21 from 22 with Lanning having seven.
Shrubsole was being threatening from the pavilion or river end, but unlucky, with Brunt being swapped out for Cross and then taking Vilani’s wicket on her return. The attack soon settled with Cross from the far end using the late afternoon breeze, well known to the locals, and Gunn giving little to hit from the pavilion end.
After 14 overs, Lanning and Elliott had moved to 36 for 1, with 11 and 4 respectively, what followed was a period of 8 overs for 15 runs and 4 wickets falling, with Cross at one point being on a hat-trick. Lanning got a feather through to Taylor for 15, Cameron trying to play her first ball through mid-wicket gave a catch to Knight at first slip with Blackwell surviving the hat-trick ball but not her fifth ball from Cross, again through to Taylor, although it took an age for the umpire to agree with the England players. Three wickets fell with the score on 40.
This brought the Australian skipper to the middle, who has been a calming and steadying influence in the last couple of tests and so it was for five overs, five scoring shots, one run out chance and what was called unbelievable and brilliant piece of work behind the stumps as this time Gunn bowled down leg, Fields lifted one foot and the bails were removed and the finger raised at square-leg – no replays here, given with the naked eye. one of those scoring shots was chased and saved from the boundary rope by the skipper, although yet again she ended the day off the field – hopefully precautionary.
Tomorrow brings lower temperatures, the mercury was falling all day, but the overnight ‘low’ was a record since records began. England have all day or 100 overs to take 5 wickets on a pitch that apparently is cracking much as the mens ashes wicket did, but Elliott is a test specialist and made a century in the last ashes test at Womsley and Perry the top-scorer in the first innings. Yet again the first hour will be crucial – back to deja vu!
England win, what more needs to be said…. The first half hour was torturous for England fans, whilst the locals counted off the runs, boundaries flowing with the wrong bowlers at the wrong ends, bringing 24 quick runs from the first three overs of the day, until Gunn then Shrubsole stemmed the flow and applied pressure.
It took Shrubsole just over an over to strike, Gunn the catcher at square leg, and Perry was gone, and with it felt most of Australia’s chances. Elliott, the test specialist who had made a century in the previous test, remained and she was the last wicket to fall, starting to take her chances with only one wicket left to fall, bowled by Brunt off an inside edge from the first ball of the 22nd over of the day.
In between, Shrubsole got two more – the phone sized cracks in the pitch assisting the number of oohs and aahs – Osbourne with a leading edge to the sub Wyatt at cover (on for Brindle who jammed a finger in stopping a ball) and Farrell clean bowled, both for ducks. Gunn added to the key wicket of Fields the day before, by trapping Coyte leg in front, after a number of close calls were turned down.
The opposition vanished pretty quickly after the presentation and interviews, whilst many of the England girls took to the outfield in their socks for an impromptu game of cricket, where Brindle junior (age 4+) was the centre of every play and the number of appeals and screams would have any passer-by thinking the test match was still alive! England therefore take the full 6 points on offer from the multi-format series, therefore requiring only two wins to be guaranteed retention, but we know the Australians will come back hard, so the series is nicely poised.
So we won, the small (a couple of hundred a day) crowd emotionally exhausted… the Aussies vanished pretty quickly, perhaps that was just perception, whilst our team hung around to chat to supporters and then have another game of cricket with Harry, one of the players kids!
first game at the MCG, this enormous stadium holds 100k, so its always rather soul-less with the 1000 or so we had in, even though free! It was grey and overcast first thing, but by the time we left it was sunny, not in the city where the breeze was cold and in shorts and t-shirt I was under-dressed. When the sun came out later, the crowd gathered in the sun, were I caught a little – probably desperate for the warmth! Their skipper has a fractured finger, so very young skipper won the toss and decided to bat, which probably suited our lot, who history says would have bowled first to allow the other side to set the target, not knowing what a decent one is… Sticky slowish wicket meant there was always a chance until the batsman got it, but once in they found it easier. Both inning very similar, three quick-ish wickets, the third falling at 63, and then a large stand lasting to the end. Difference was with that large stand, our pair knew where they had to get to and got there with a few overs left. 8-0 up and if we win one more game, then we retain the ashes won in August.
Next day back to the MCG for a day night game and a change to the aussie side, introducing a player I saw make 80+ in the warm up game in the heat of WA make a ton on debut plus an important run out. That followed by our skipper being bowled first ball, putting us behind the 8 ball from the start of our innings! Time to congratulate a proud dad who had flown in specially for the game on being told the night before that his daughter was going to play and then back to sit on luggage to make it fit, ready for flight out of Melbourne in the rain!
Down early to the ground, parking in a little lot next to the beach behind the main stand – we could hear the crashing of waves during the game. Few spectators had chosen the cricket over Australia day celebrations, but they missed a good game, good total that might have been a bit short, but good wickets at key times meant it would have gone our way but for an unbeaten 90 from their star allrounder, with three balls to spare – the way they all ran on to the pitch was like they had won the ashes not just kept the series alive again! Stopped at supermarket, impressed it was still open on a Sunday, also a public holiday and found a cake I can eat!
back to Bellerive for the first of the T20’s to find that the gate we were supposed to get our tickets at was not open, confusing about when it would open, traipsing back and forward – annoying but not unusual! The team was running out of fit players, and they got what felt a good score at 151 but it was a small ground… Skipper Lottie seemed determined to seal the game lead from the front of her innings, everything was sweet despite the loss of her partner at the other end – 92 off 59 balls meant we retained the ashes with two games to go, 13 balls to spare and by 9 wickets. No trophy until the end, but lots of interviews whilst the girls had their gear removed from dressing rooms as the men turned up without even giving the girls a glance!! A few bevvies behind the stands to celebrate and re-live the game, then the chance to shiver in the stands whilst the mens game started, the building site on one side of the ground swallowing balls!
I left to pack to go back to Melbourne, where the game was not so good, followed by a game at the Sydney Olympic stadium – weird shape for a cricket ground and the heat causing us to move further and further back to keep the shade. Another loss brought a damp end to the tour – no dampness caused by anything else, not a sign of any champers or anything – two interviews and then a trophy, medals given out afterwards – all very unsatisfactory, but for the fact we had the trophy!